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Ford EcoBoost 400: Power Rankings

Ranking the final four competitors

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Race Information

Race: Ford EcoBoost 400
Laps: 267
Date: November 17th
Venue: Homestead-Miami Speedway
2018 Winner: Joey Logano (3:00:36)
Broadcast: NBC

Track

Homestead Miami Speedway. Home to the final race of the Monster Energy Cup Series (since 2002), this 1.5 mile asphalt oval speedway opened in 1995. The turns are 18-20 degrees in banking and the straightaways are 3 degrees. Sam Hornish set the track record here in 2006. The course features aqua, purple and silver colors, mimicking the nearby south beach ambiance. The stadium holds 46,000 seats, last year they got to watch Joey take his 1st career Series win here last year.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Ford EcoBoost 400 Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

As we approach the final race of the season, consider how the rules work. The slate is now clean and the final four drivers: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch are going to battle it out for the 2019 Monster Energy Cup Series Champion. There are no points for laps led, it all comes down to who crosses the finish line first. So let’s look into the history a bit:

How the race before (Phoenix) fared on the outcome:

2018:

  1. Joey Logano – worst highest finish at Phoenix (37th)
  2. Martin Truex Jr – third highest finish at Phoenix (14th)
  3. Kevin Harvick – 2nd best finish at Phoenix (5th)
  4. Kyle Busch – best finish at Phoenix (1st)

2017:

  1. Martin Truex Jr. – best finish at Phoenix (3rd)
  2. Kyle Busch – third highest finish at Phoenix (7th)
  3. Kevin Harvick – second highest finish at Phoenix (5th)
  4. Brad Keslowski – worst highest finish at Phoenix (16th)

So while 2017 fell pretty much in line, 2018 literally went completely opposite going into Homestead. This doesn’t give me much to go from.

How average playoff finish fared on the outcome:

2018:

  1. Joey Logano – best average playoff finish (8.6th)
  2. Martin Truex Jr – 2nd highest average playoff finish (9.1st)
  3. Kevin Harvick – worst average playoff finish (14th)
  4. Kyle Busch – 3rd highest average playoff finish (10th)

2017:

  1. Martin Truex Jr. – highest average playoff finish (8.9th)
  2. Kyle Bush – tied for 3rd average playoff finish (11th)
  3. Kevin Harvick – tied for 3rd average playoff finish (11th)
  4. Brad Keslowski – 2nd highest average playoff finish (9.1st)

This works better, both Joey and Martin had the highest average finish going into Homestead, beyond that, either the 2nd or 3rd will come in 2nd.

How pole positions fared on the outcome:

2018:

  1. Joey Logano – 2nd most pole in the playoffs (1)
  2. Martin Truex Jr – worst number of poles in the playoffs (0)
  3. Kevin Harvick – 2nd most pole in the playoffs (1)
  4. Kyle Busch – most number of poles in the playoffs (2)

2017:

  1. Martin Truex Jr. – tied most poles in playoffs (2)
  2. Kyle Bush – tied most poles in playoffs (2)
  3. Kevin Harvick – least poles in playoffs (0)
  4. Brad Keslowski – least poles in playoffs (0)

This metric sort of works, Joey clearly had a fast car as did Kevin Harvick in 2018, in 2017 Martin Truex Jr. had a quick car as did Kyle Busch. This might be one of the better metrics to use.

How total race wins fared on the outcome:

2018:

  1. Joey Logano – fewest wins in 2018: 2 wins going into final race
  2. Martin Truex Jr – fewest wins in 2018: 2 wins going into final race
  3. Kevin Harvick – most wins in 2018: 9 wins going into final race
  4. Kyle Busch – second most wins in 2018: 8 wins going into final race

2017:

  1. Martin Truex Jr. – most wins in 2017: 7 wins going into final race
  2. Kyle Bush – 2nd most wins in 2017: 6 wins going into final race
  3. Kevin Harvick – Fewest wins in 2017: 2 wins going into final racE
  4. Brad Keslowski – 3rd fewest wins in 2017: 3 wins going into final race

Just like the other categories, 2017 was very predictable and 2018 was anything but.

My short conclusion on this is that the most important metrics end up being poles led in playoffs and best average over the course of the playoffs. Phoenix does not work as it’s one race and total wins doesn’t work as Kyle Harvick and Kyle Busch showed in 2018 where they had lots of wins but many of them were early in the season and it almost fatigued them such that Martin Truex and Joey Logano stepped in during the playoffs and took over. The pole position shows me who has the quickest car in the playoffs and average finish shows the consistency throughout the playoffs that will be needed during this last race.

Power Rankings

#1. Martin Truex Jr.: Martin had the worst finish at Phoenix (6th), he is tied for the best average playoff finish (6thst place); Martin has the fewest poles in the playoffs (0) and he has the most wins with seven wins in 2020. Martin has been consistent with three wins and every finish save one inside the top 7 racers. The trump card to me is something I didn’t highlight, Martin has finished in the top 2 each of the last two seasons at Homestead.

#2. Kevin Harvick: Kevin had the third best finish at Phoenix (5th), He is tied for the best average playoff finish (6th); he is tied for 2nd in poles (1) and he has the third most wins with 4 wins in 2020. He has been the 2nd most consistent behind Martin with just one finish outside the top 10 in the playoffs so far. He had a rough finish at Homestead last year but he was 3rd and 4th in the two prior years.

#3. Denny Hamlin: Denny had the best finish at Phoenix (1st) the 3rd best average playoff finish (9th); Denny has the most poles in the playoffs (2) he has the second most wins with six wins in 2020. The tricky part with Denny is he leads poles and is last in average finish. He has finished outside the top 15 more than Kevin and Martin but he also has two wins to his name. Denny probably has the best car right now but he also has one issue – he has raced the worst at Homestead the last few years with a handful of 9th and 12th place finishes hanging like a dark cloud over his head.

#4. Kyle Busch: Kyle had the 2nd best finish at Phoenix (2nd) He has the worst playoff average so far (12th place); Kyle is tied for 2nd in poles (1) he has the third most wins with four wins in 2020. While I think Kyle might be one of the best racers on this circuit, I’m skeptical that he’s working with the best car right now and he’s clearly struggled through the playoffs.